SCV school districts reject COVID-19 testing funds

The Newhall School District Building in Valencia. 010820. Dan Watson/The Signal

Many Santa Clarita Valley school districts plan to reject Centers for Disease Control (CDC) funding to provide comprehensive COVID-19-screening programs at SCV schools. 

The Los Angeles County Office of Education allocated $7.5 million – out of $300 million for the county’s 80 public school districts and many private schools – for SCV’s six districts last month. 

“We’re not going to be using those funds,” said Jeff Pelzel, superintendent of the Newhall School District, which did not conduct COVID-19 testing on its campuses. “We’ve never had a transmission from adult to adult, adult to student or student to student, resulting from a transmission on campus. That has never happened all year.” 

The county offered the Newhall School District $995,055 to address “ongoing challenges,” county officials said last month, such as the cost and staffing of testing programs and expanding testing sites. 

“It doesn’t make any sense just to be testing for the sake of testing when you don’t have data that would support that there’s this drastic need to do that,” said Pelzel. 

Sulphur Springs Union School District Governing Board President Ken Chase said his district also anticipates rejecting the CDC funds. 

“We have concerns that the expense spent to carry it out would be greater than the funds we would receive,” Chase said of the $845,945 allocated by the county. “We will continue complying with the CDC, the state of California and County of Los Angeles guidelines to ensure that our staff and students are in a safe environment.” 

Dave Caldwell, a William S. Hart Union High School District representative, said the Hart district continues to evaluate funding requirements as it weighs whether to accept a grant of $3,424,307 to support with COVID-19 testing.  

Colleen Hawkins, superintendent of the Saugus Union School District, said her district would not move forward with accepting $1,531,767 in funding at this time. 

“We did such a nice job with the support of (the Hart District) with getting our people vaccinated that that seemed to be the primary focus,” Hawkins said, noting that the district needs parental consent to test young children. “We have not done a lot of surveillance (testing).”  

The Castaic Union and Acton-Agua Dulce school districts were not immediately available for comment from The Signal at the time of publication. Castaic was allocated $386,613 and Acton-Agua Dulce was allocated $334,933. 

“Ensuring safe in-person instruction is vital to addressing learning loss and promoting social-emotional well-being,” said L.A. County Superintendent of Schools Debra Duardo in a prepared statement last month. “This testing program is a tool to help make that happen.”  

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